Abbey Lincoln: A Woman Speaking Her Mind

Gender Distinctions

LARA PELLEGRINELLI: So it’s all right to say that men and women are different?

ABBEY LINCOLN: Yes! Are you kidding? I mean, really.

LARA PELLEGRINELLI: Well, there are some women who are…

ABBEY LINCOLN: Are trying to pretend that she’s just like him?

LARA PELLEGRINELLI: Yes.

ABBEY LINCOLN: Oh, I know. It’s sick. We weren’t made like that. She’s not made to play football. If that was true, she wouldn’t have to complain about being abused. She could defend herself. He has muscles.

LARA PELLEGRINELLI: But just because they’re different doesn’t mean anyone is less than anyone else.

ABBEY LINCOLN: No, it doesn’t. It means that we are this. [clasps hand together] If everybody is what they know how to be, we are strong and brilliant. But a woman wants to be a man and a man who pretends that he’s a woman? Give me a break! How are you going to continue…how would you perpetuate the species like this? This is just a bunch of lies that we’re living through.

LARA PELLEGRINELLI: I’ve heard other people use the word feminist to describe your work…

ABBEY LINCOLN: I’m not a feminist. How are you going to be a feminist and you bring the male and the female child here?

LARA PELLEGRINELLI: What does the word feminism mean to you?

ABBEY LINCOLN: I think that the women have had these resentments and she hasn’t been woman enough to speak about it until just now. After Dr. King got over, after the blacks got over, she thought, “Okay. But I didn’t get mine yet,” she said. And she teaches. She talks to him, much the way the African Americans talk to the white man. He’s to blame for everything. Nobody did nothing low but him. How is anybody supposed to believe this? The African people are paying for something they did a long time ago. They were delivered to the level long before they met the Europeans. Well, the woman, the white women, followed after the blacks. It’s my body. Really? Well, if you keep your dress down, it’s yours. And the man didn’t say to her, “Yeah, until you lay with me, then it’s ours and if you kill my children, I’m gonna kill you, I’m gonna hurt you.” He didn’t. My body. My word! So we’re all guilty in this. I don’t know. I guess the white man has got really a great superiority complex because everybody blames him for everything. Nobody did nothing low but him! [laughs]

LARA PELLEGRINELLI: It’s a terrible burden for him, too.

ABBEY LINCOLN: It’s not right.

LARA PELLEGRINELLI: No, it’s not right.

ABBEY LINCOLN: It’s a lie. He didn’t do this by himself. Yeah. It’s really interesting growing older and becoming elder. I’m thankful for my life. I really am. I don’t want to stay here forever. But I’m glad I had a chance to experience this.

LARA PELLEGRINELLI: And you’ve put so much of that into your songs. Do you think of those as your monuments to us?

ABBEY LINCOLN: Yes, I think so. I never knew it was going to be like this, but…”When I’m Called Home.” Stan Getz said to me, “Abbey, I don’t want to put a hex on your song, but this is a great song.” “When I’m called home, I will bring a book that tells of strange and funny terms and of the heart it took to keep on living in a world that never was my own! A world of haunted memories of other worlds unknown.”